Interview & Photography by James Jin
November 12, 2015
How did you start dancing?
My mom starting taking me to dance class when I was 2 ½. My first teacher, Anna Marie Leo, also taught my mom when she was growing up. I loved class. Always wanted to be in class, even if I had a fever. And I remember sitting in the back of our station wagon trying to convince my mom to move our family to New York City. Everyday I would say how I think it would be good for the family. However, my first trip to NYC was with my sister and grandmother, and we saw Savion Glover in Bring In ‘da Noise, Bring In ‘da Funk. My seat was on the aisle, and I was mesmerized. I loved everything about New York, theatre, and dance.
What happened from there?
After high school, I graduated from Cornell University where I studied engineering and hospitality. During the summers, I held business internships and studied dance in both New York and LA. The day following graduation, I moved to 105th Street on the West Side. My bedroom was a couch, and I couldn’t have been more thrilled to be in New York City.
What are you up to now?
I just finished a film with the director Danny Goldstein. It was a theatrical production staged specifically for film. The collaboration was amazing. The 10th BC Beat just happened in November. And later in the month, I’ll be working with Sarah Rebell on choreography for a new musical, and diving into pre-production with writer, composer Adam Gwon. Adam and I were awarded a residency and grant to develop a new show starting January 2016. And one of my favorite projects includes the writing team of Matte O’Brien and Matt Vinson, collaborating on a new musical adaptation of Anne of Green Gables. We’ve have two development workshops at Syracuse University and College of Charleston, a reading in New York City, a concert at 54 Below, and we just filmed two production numbers on the Naumburg Bandshell in Central park with a cast of 11 Broadway performers. The way we’re telling, sharing the story is so unique and exciting. And projects which I’ll be directing and choreographing, starting in March, are currently in the negotiation process. I love collaborating with new directors, composers, writers, artists, and more to create unique and inspiring stories.
I also started an organization called Broadway Connection. And this fall marks Broadway Connection’s 8th year. We work with performers in all the Broadway national tours and have them teach at studios, schools, and universities all across the country as they tour. Melissa Maupin and I are business partners. We are beyond passionate about Broadway Connection. It’s truly a positive, unique, and inspiring experience for everyone involved. It’s a lot of work, but so fun to connect our community of dancers and performers with the next generation of artists across the country and around the world.
What is BC Beat?
BC Beat is a choreographer showcase and a dance party. It uniquely mixes the two. BC Beat has a shared dance floor. You don’t just sit down and watch the performances and then leave. You walk in: there’s a DJ playing music; you grab a drink; you enjoy the dance floor with the choreographers and the performers; I introduce all the choreographers, and we start the performance. Performers come in and out of the stage; you’re breathing and sweating next to people who were just performing. There’s energy that’s unlike any other showcase out there right now. It’s an intimate way to connect with choreographers afterwards. You get to be on the dance floor with them and talk to the choreographers. It’s all about stimulating new conversations, starting new collaborations, celebrating dance and choreography in musical theatre, and bringing those creatives to the forefront and letting them tell a story that interests them. It brings the community together in a very supportive way.
How did you start it?
The first BC Beat was planned for Spring of 2011. I reached out to inventive, hungry, active choreographers to see if they were interested. At the time, advanced tickets were not sold online, so we really didn’t know if people would show up. It turned out to be an amazing with so much support from the community. Right away, people were asking about the next one. I planned the Fall 2011 BC Beat while working in Shanghai, and thus, it became a semi-annual showcase. Speed ahead to Fall 2015, BC Beat sold out online before any tickets could even be sold at the door.
How was getting choreographers to participate?
One of the most amazing things about being a choreographer in musical theatre is collaboration. You’re in communication with writers, directors, composers and more. With BC Beat, choreographers are given an opportunity to exercise instinct, to develop their own voice, style and tone, and to evolve an idea or story that inspires them. It’s an exercise that is not always available to choreographers. Thus, in addition to exposure, there are many reasons why participating in BC Beat is a draw for choreographers.
What are your aspirations as a choreographer?
As a choreographer, I love collaborating and creating. My instincts are narrative-driven, so connecting with stories, composers, and writers who are curious and excited about movement in the development process is a major focus of mine. For over two years, I’ve made it a priority with the help of collaborator and producer, Justin Nichols. And the efforts have connected me with Matte O’Brien, Matt Vinson, Drew Gasparini, Adam Gwon, Ty Defoe, Ethan Andersen and more--we’ve taken new songs, new musicals into studios, parks, restaurants and more to workshop style and tone of movement as a storytelling vehicle with amazing Broadway artists. In each experience, communication is developed, as well as an understanding and appreciation for dance in the creative process. As a choreographer, I look forward to a myriad of projects, challenges, and unknowns that come from being a part of cohesive creative teams.
What are your some of your favorite parts about living in the city?
My husband and I love living in Brooklyn. We love our neighborhood, the food, people, parks, and activities. We rock climb together, and it’s a block away. Soccer, yoga, tennis, running. We’re very active. The chefs and restaurant owners on the corner created the menu and food for our wedding. It’s a neighborhood of friends. And everybody who’s in the city is here because they’re absolutely passionate. They’re doing what they love, and it fuels the soul to be around people who are inspired.
What would be your number one advice?
Exercise instincts. When I am collaborating with dancers or singers, I want to know that their instinct is grounded, developed, real, and that no one’s pushing in certain ways or trying to be something that they’re not. It’s beyond being an individual. It’s instinct. Furthermore, communicating your instinct also takes time and exercise. It’s not something that is necessarily there from the beginning. Develop and exercise your instinct and know how to communicate it. Breathe, be real, and be supportive of whomever you’re around. If you have a chance to work with people or even just walk down the street, be positive, be supportive, be excited. You’re going to end up doing something together.
I think it’s easy for performers to fall into having overtly competitive spirit in this industry.
How do you think people could turn that into collaborative energy?
Well, that edge, that drive is necessary. There has to be some sort of competitiveness to you to get out of bed early and go to the gym or go to the yoga class before your audition. You need that spark. And when you land the job, trust that the next job is coming from the one you have in the moment. The people who can collaborate in the room--who are kind, consistent, and can communicate and be open to collaboration--are going to get the next job immediately. It’s energy—it’s in your eyes and in the way you communicate on a daily basis.
Is there any last thing you want to share with the world?
I am wearing my mom’s red Capezio t-shirt. She wore it as a dancer and when she had me. Thank you mom and dad for all your support, encouragement, and confidence in my passion to dance, create, and build community.